The Burning Maze: The Trials of Apollo, Book 3

Book review by
Carrie R. Wheadon, Common Sense Media
The Burning Maze: The Trials of Apollo, Book 3 Book Poster Image
Popular with kidsParents recommend
Evil Caligula reigns again in high-action Apollo sequel.

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 5 reviews

Kids say

age 9+
Based on 15 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Having the Greek god of music, poetry, healing arts, prophecy, and plague as narrator takes the reader in a number of fascinating directions. Apollo complains that his mortal form makes him forget a lot, but we're still treated to tidbits on periods in history he's experienced (especially during Tiberius' and Caligula's reigns in Rome), and mythology he remembers, including taking over the sun chariot from the Titan Helios. The sorceress Medea and the Emperor Caligula are the villains here, and we get backgrounds on each. Each chapter begins with a haiku (teaching about a form of poetry), and there's a shout-out to Walt Whitman. Expect a small botany lesson as we meet dryads representing plants such as aloe, prickly pear, and money maker. Southern California-set story includes real details about the setting. A 12-page glossary entitled "Guide to Apollo-Speak" is included in the back.

Positive Messages

Strong messages about dealing with loss, finding what home is, being yourself, wielding power with care, and not taking out anger on someone else. A dryad complains that "the killers are remembered as heroes. The growers are forgotten."

Positive Role Models & Representations

Apollo has lost most of his pompous edge from the first book. He's entrenched in the human experience now and shows so much concern for his friends and fellow questers that he's willing to sacrifice himself for them and make promises to improve their lives. He shows mercy to a former enemy.


Two sad deaths, one heavily mourned. Both are stabbed by enemies with spears and a knife. Some gruesome injuries and deaths of minor characters: hearts and tongues cut out (not described), dragon heads cut off, poisoning with blow darts, burning by intense fire, automaton attacks with exploding weapons, and stabbing with swords. Scratches from birds cause paralyses, whirling mini-tornados cut and maim. Talk of an emperor smothered with a pillow, forest fires killing thousands of dryads and many others missing in search parties, reminder that main character's father was murdered and the sorceress Medea killed her own brother and kids.


Apollo briefly remembers past loves, male and female.


Talk of the middle finger.


Many car brands mentioned, some favorably (Mercedes) some not (Pinto). Joe Walsh's song "Life of Illusion" figures prominently. Talk of modern conveniences: Google, Alexa, Wikipedia. Mention of shoe brands and the designer Stella McCartney.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Talk of drunk starlets.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Burning Maze is the third book in a series that's a spin-off of a Percy Jackson spin-off series. Did you follow that? The Percy Jackson and the Olympians series came first, then the Heroes of Olympus. It helps to read them both before digging into the Trials of Apollo series. The storyline picks up after the war at the end of the Heroes of Olympus, and many old favorite characters make cameos or are mentioned (yay, Piper!). And, for extra credit, reading the Apollo chapter in Percy Jackson's Greek Gods helps when our "suddenly mortal and very unhappy about it" narrator, Apollo, recounts key moments of his godly life. As in the first two books, there's a lot to learn about mythology and history, this time about two infamous villains: Medea and Caligula, as well as Caligula's talking horse (seriously). Like the second book, The Dark Prophecy, this one has a  whole lot of action. No arena fighting, but Caligula orders hearts and tongues cut out. There are two sad and violent deaths with much mourning for one key character in the series. Main characters are injured in long fight sequences with automatons, explosives, fire-breathing dragons, fire-breathing apparitions, giant birds that cause paralyses, mini tornadoes, and big-eared incredibly skilled assassins called pandai.  Between the battles, expect lessons on dealing with loss, finding what home is, being yourself, wielding power with care, and not taking out anger on someone else.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 15-year-old Written byPjostan34 March 8, 2019

Traumatizing for my 14 year old, but a great book

This was overall an amazing book, and it really shows the development of the main character, Apollo. Despite being a superb book however, the content is a littl... Continue reading
Adult Written byNathanReads H. May 31, 2018

A Very Tragic Death happens in this one.

If you children could handle Luke dying this will be fine. Or this character is liked alot. It tells you why annabeth was sobbing when magnus phoned.
Teen, 16 years old Written byaugey July 7, 2018

The burning maze

This is the third book in the trials of Apollo and although it is less funny than the others, it is still funny! I really enjoyed the additions to Greek mytholo... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bysurfer589 October 7, 2020

*sob* no spoilers here

Ugh, why Riordan why? Why let *?* leave us?

This book is high energy, but really depressing in a lot of ways. Still, you must read this book to continue to t... Continue reading

What's the story?

In THE BURNING MAZE, Apollo, in the body of a mortal teen named Lester; Meg, daughter of Demeter; and Grover, a satyr, follow the labyrinth to locate the third oracle. When they're attacked by giant cursed birds named strixes and nearly disemboweled, they know they're close to their destination. They emerge in the Southern California desert in a place Meg doesn't want to remember. Greenhouses built by her now-deceased father surround them. Most were burned out during an attack years ago when Meg was young and was forced to flee. Some dryads still live there and explain that many of their kind have died in fires or gone missing looking for the source of an intense burning under the Earth. Suddenly reentering the maze to locate the third oracle has gotten a lot more dangerous. Even with reinforcements -- Piper, daughter of Aphrodite -- the odds are against them when Medea shows up in her dragon-pulled chariot. And she's not even the worst villain of the lot. It's the infamous mad and extravagant emperor Caligula she's aiding. With the mysterious fire under the Earth and Apollo's death, she plans to make Caligula more powerful than ever before.

Is it any good?

The third book in this fallen-Apollo series sets a fast pace like the others, and reintroduces some truly fantastic villains from history and myth, Medea and Caligula. Medea has her dragon-led chariot and magical powers and an overall bad rap (killing her whole family back in the day). Caligula has his power-hungry madness, his talking/scheming horse, and extravagance (in the form of a long chain of unbelievably opulent yachts here -- one dedicated solely to footwear). The heroes and poor Apollo in Lester's teen body "with love handles" face these foes again and again (maybe too many times) in one of the more action-packed books Rick Riordan has ever written.

With Riordan's usual knack for lightening the mood with lots of humor and quirkiness (like a talking arrow who speaks Shakespearean English and an aloe dryad who heals everyone with her goo), readers may forget that at the beginning of The Burning Maze, the author invokes Melpomene, the Muse of Tragedy. "I hope you're pleased with yourself," the invocation reads. She must be, because things do turn tragic for a major character and the loss will be felt by fans.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the villains in The Burning Maze. Why is Caligula infamous? What does Apollo say made him so evil? Why is Nero reluctant to share power with him?

  • A dryad complains that, "the killers are remembered as heroes. The growers are forgotten." Do you think this is true?

  • How has Apollo changed in this series? Do you think it has helped him overcome obstacles on his quests? Do you think it will help him in Book 4?

Book details

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For kids who love fantasy and mythology

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